Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Knowledge of God, Creation and Man, Part B

Short Excursus: Genesis vs. The Enuma Elish

The Enuma Elish was the Babylonian and Assyrian creation-myth account and has some similarities to the Biblical one. Of course, we should expect that they would be somewhat similar if indeed they had a common source going back to the beginning only a few generations earlier.1 However, the dissimilarities are so numerous that we can easily say that if any “borrowing” occurred2, it would be simply to present the one’s account as the antithesis3 of the other, a refutation if you will.4 The stark differences highlight the antithesis between the worldviews:

  • In the EE, the space-time universe already existed and the creation process was simply to reshape it. In Genesis, God alone is self-existent and eternal. As one historian notes:

“Apsu and Tiamat were not simply the ancestors of the gods. They represented at the same time the living, uncreated world of matter; Apsu was the primeval sweet-water ocean, and Tiamat the primeval salt-water ocean. They were matter and divine spirit united and coexistent, like body and soul. In them, were contained all the elements of which the universe was made later on, and from them were descended all the gods and goddesses of the vast Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon.

In sharp contrast to this, the Book of Genesis speaks of only one divine principle, existing apart from and independently of all cosmic matter.”5

The EE, like all pagan religions, teaches the concept of the ‘Continuity of Being’ whereas Genesis emphatically denies it.

  • In the EE, Tiamat, the “Great Dragon” of the sea, the personification of the principle of chaos, is one of the gods. In Genesis, it is one of God’s simple creatures, like a fish, that God created for His glory.

  • In the EE, the gods formed the things of ‘creation’ out of already existing material through sexual congress and divine conflict. For example, the chief deity, Marduk, after slaying Tiamat in battle, uses the corpse to form the heavens and the earth. In contrast, Genesis says that God simply spoke things into being.

  • In the EE, the forming of the zodiac is pointed out, but in Genesis, the stars are not gods but simply God’s luminous creations.

  • Whereas in Genesis, God is immutable and holy, in the EE, the gods act like spoiled children and wicked men. This was common in paganism, and as Augustine pointed out in his City of God, this shows that the gods of the pagans were created in the image of man.

  • In the EE, man is created as a slave of the gods to do the work that the defeated gods complained about doing. In Genesis, man is made in the image of God, crowned with glory and honor, made the vassal king of the earth, and placed in a garden protecting him from the harshness of the outside world.

  • In Genesis, there is a seven-day creation, but in EE, there is no parallel.

  • The purpose of the two books shows a huge contrast:

“Finally the story concludes with the gods creating Babylon as a dwelling place for Marduk and proclaiming his sovereignty in assembly. In this festival, Marduk is honored with fifty names. Since the last one and a half tablets of the epic are dedicated to this homage, it is obvious that the object of the story is political. Its purpose is to establish the sovereignty of Marduk among the gods of the world and hence the supremacy of Babylon over the cities of other gods. Thus, Creation by Marduk is a secondary motif and is introduced only to enhance Babylon’s sovereignty through its connection to Marduk. In fact, this connection of an assembly of gods each linked to a particular city-state provided the framework for international diplomacy in the Mesopotamian world. As a result of this conception, a link was established between heaven and earth so that the fortunes of city-states below were imputed to the success of their patron gods above. Thus, the religious aspect was simply an appendage to political power. For this reason, the Assyrians could take the Babylonian story intact and pompously substitute the names of Assyrian gods for Babylonian ones. After all, with the objective being political power, the gods were made in the image man, not the reverse.”6

Whereas the EE’s purpose is to provide a political myth to establish the supremacy of the Babylonian king and his relations with his neighbors, it is obvious from the genealogies and other such indicators that Genesis is focused on providing an actual record of historical events.

It is clear that the EE is only superficially like the Genesis account, and obviously, the antithesis is highlighted rather than any similarities. In fact, it should be pointed out that if someone wanted to invent a religion in order to gain political or monetary power, Yahwist monotheism would most certainly not be it.

Genesis 2:4-2:25: The Creation of Man and Woman

“This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4)

The text begins a new historical account. Every time the text begins with “account of” or “generation” (Hebrew: toledoth), it marks the beginning of each main section. Here, the text focuses in on the sixth day when God created man.

“Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.” (Genesis 2:5-6)

This is not saying that God hadn’t created plants yet as Genesis 1:11-13 clearly states. Rather, it is speaking about the cultivation of the crop plants, those “of the field” (cf. Genesis 3:17-19). God then sends a mist to water the ground and proceeds to create one who will work the ground…

“Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

God forms man as a special creation from the dirt and animates him by giving him the ruach, the breath of life. Once the ruach was combined with the body, Adam became a nephesh, a living creature. We should not see man’s soul in the body as simply a “ghost in the machine” as the Greeks did.7 Rather, the two form a united whole which is why the severing of one from the other is an evil which will be remedied at the final resurrection (Revelation 20:11-15).

The breath of life is given to all living creatures (Genesis 1:30), but we must be careful not to reduce man’s soul to the mere “principle of life” found in animals. There are a number of reasons for this which we won’t go into here.8

“The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’” (Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17)

God placed man in the paradisiacal garden, protected from any environmental harm and given access to the tree of life which would sustain his life indefinitely. Ancient pagans taught that the gods had intended man to always be mortal, and thus, this is another case of the stark antithesis.

Second, man is charged with cultivating the garden as part of his being the vassal king of the earth. Later, man will name all the creatures of the earth. In the ancient near-east, naming something was an act of declaring ownership over it.

Lastly, man was forbidden to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “Knowledge of good and evil” denotes moral knowledge or ethical discernment, and Adam already possessed this knowledge as a result of being made in the image of God. However, God likely placed the tree there to test the loyalty of His covenant servant. Knowledge of good and evil originally came to Adam from God, but Adam would be tested to see if he would seek a creaturely source of discernment, human autonomous knowledge.

The Hebrew of this verse is actually “dying you shall die”9 indicating that, if man ate from this tree, he would be cut off from the tree of life and its life-sustaining sustenance resulting eventually in his death.10

In the proceeding verses of chapter 2, God brings animals forth for Adam to name (vv.19-20), an act which, in the ancient near east, represented ownership or rule over the thing named. Man was and is the vice-regent and representative of God’s creation, and his actions would affect that created order.

God saw that man was alone and needed a companion (v.18). It was not as if God did not already know that, but rather, God was showing Adam’s need for a mate by bringing forth the animals in their sexual pairs. God then forms woman out of Adam’s rib (vv.21-23; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7), and the two become one flesh (v.24). Both were naked, a sign of childlike innocence, and were not ashamed in the presence of each other and of God (v.25).

Genesis 3:1-24: The Fall of Man

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” (Genesis 3:1a)

From other Biblical texts, we know that this is Satan11 (Romans 16:20, 2 Corinthians 11:3, Revelation 12:9). Whether the fallen angel, being a spirit, materialized in the form of a serpent or took control of one of God’s good creatures (Genesis 1:24-25) and spoke as if from it (e.g., Numbers 22:28) we may not know. What we do know is that the Hebrews weren’t so stupid as to believe that serpents could actually speak and persuade humans!

“And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ” (Genesis 3:1b-5)

Here, the serpent begins by putting doubt into the mind of the woman and causes her to question God’s word. Up to that time, man and woman received special revelation directly from God and interpreted general revelation in light of the former.12 Here, the serpent encourages her to interpret her surroundings based on her own judgment. After all, you won’t know if you don’t try it…right? Thus, the woman judges God’s special revelation based on her own interpretation of the created order. This is what Francis Schaeffer might have called “self-integration”, but it is otherwise known as autonomous epistemology.

The serpent goes further with the lie and tells the woman that if she eats the fruit, then she will “be like God, knowing good and evil.” Of course, she already knew good and evil, and so, the text has an inferred meaning of being able to determine for herself what good and evil should be. This is autonomous morality.

In all, the serpent encourages her to claim her own autonomy, or “self-law,” apart from God’s Lordship and special revelation. Instead of God telling the woman what the world was like, she would inform herself. Instead of God telling her what was right and what was wrong, she would determine for herself what was good and evil. In short, the serpent encouraged her to be her own little god. What modern unbelievers call “objectivity”, “neutrality”, and “free-thought”, the Bible calls “Original Sin”.

“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” (Genesis 3:6-7)

Desiring to be like God, the woman took the fruit and ate as did her husband. However, the tree was made by God, and, with all the rest of the universe, it received its being and power from its Creator (Nehemiah 9:6, Colossians 1:16-17, etc.).13 As such, one who plotted against its Master would not receive wisdom but foolishness. It was not untrue that they were naked, but rather, their belief that nakedness was wrong was foolish. The openness which they shared with each other and with God in perfect14 holiness was replaced with concealment and the selfishness which flows from an evil heart. As J.A. Motyer said:

“Having come to knowledge on the basis of sin (instead of on the basis of holiness/obedience), no knowledge is now pure. Everything suggests a corruption. The old openness with which they had lived with each other, literally ‘naked and unabashed’, is replaced by a secretive awareness of self, and a desire to retire from the other, to hide, to retreat from the old unself-protective mutuality. The man and the woman have previously turned naturally to the other: they were the conjoint sides of the same reality, mutually finding wholeness. But now the secretive individual has come into being, the inward-turned person…The world seen on the basis of disobedience and evil is very different from the world seen on the basis of obedience and good.”15

“They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ” (Genesis 3:8-13)

The man and the woman, being ashamed of what they had done and afraid of the punishment that their covenant Lord would inflict, hid themselves from the one who made them and loved them. When asked16 if they had sinned, they blame everyone but themselves. The man first blames God for giving Him the woman who persuaded him to eat the apple and then blames the woman for doing so. The woman then, instead of acknowledging that she could have simply refused the serpent’s persuasion, blames the serpent instead of taking responsibility for her own actions. Again J.A. Motyer:

“Thus, like the man and woman we acknowledge sin but, by nature we cannot grasp its seriousness. From the moment of the Fall, humankind has suffered from moral schizophrenia: neither able to deny sinfulness nor to acknowledge it for what it is.”17

All non-Christian worldviews attribute personal evil and guilt to anything but man. It is either due to one’s upbringing, genes, lack of ‘enlightenment’, evil spirits, the material world, etc. or its existence is denied altogether. Personal blame is never accepted in unbelief, and again, the antithesis is shown forth.

“The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life” ” (Genesis 3:14)

Again, the Hebrews weren’t so stupid as to believe that snakes were on the same cognitive level as humans with speaking and persuasive abilities. The subject being discussed here is clearly the deceiver, Satan (Romans 16:20, 2 Corinthians 11:3, Revelation 12:9). However, the serpent is more cursed “than all cattle” and “every beast of the field” suggesting that it is speaking of snakes, and so, there is likely a double figure here.

We should note that God created things which creep on the ground in Genesis 1:24-25 and called them “good”. So obviously, this curse refers to something beyond the snake’s proximity to the ground. Rather, in the ancient near-east, to be “on your belly” and to “eat dust” meant to be in humiliation, defeat, or death (Psalm 72:9, Isaiah 49:23, Micah 7:17). We are to imagine a man mortally wounded in battle, still barely clinging to life, and crawling on the ground trying in vain to get to safety and comfort.18 Or we could imagine a captured prisoner of war made into a slave, crawling in forced obedience before his master. Satan would no longer hold a position of power and honor as he once held in heaven. Instead of fulfilling his desire of becoming God’s equal, he would be God’s lowly defeated slave like an enemy captured in battle, God’s lackey who could only do something if God first permitted it (Job 1:6-12). Satan’s defeat will ultimately climax when God would undo what the deceiver had caused (v.15).

Thus, the snake would be a symbol or ‘covenant sign’ of Satan’s defeat. Just as the rainbow already existed before the flood but was assigned a new meaning as a covenant sign (Genesis 9:12-17), so the snake’s slithering movement which was considered good before the fall (Genesis 1:24-25) was now the covenant sign of the defeated enemy.

“…and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

This is a very important passage that has been the subject of much debate. Without going into much detail on the subject of Messianic prophecy, this seed of the woman is linked with the final defeat of Satan. If one takes the book of Genesis as a whole, “the seed” is linked with the redemption of all the nations (12:3) and with the reversal of the curse (5:29).19

“To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” (Genesis 3:16)

Although child bearing would still be a blessing (Psalm 127:3), it would be painful. Secondly, instead of having the joy of her husband always treating her as an equal in terms of dignity and respect, the female sex would be ruled over and degraded in dignity by men. This first started with polygamy (Genesis 4:19) and would move on to regarding women as mere chattel.20 Female equality in the Western world is a novelty in terms of history and an island of equity in midst of an ocean of repression.

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it”; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’” (Genesis 3:17-19)

Now man and the world in which he lived were cursed and no longer purely “good” (Genesis 1:12). Instead of man freely receiving food from the plants which God had made (2:16) and his day’s labors being joyful (2:15), he would now have to labor strenuously for the food which would sustain his life. In the end, man would wear out and die since he would no longer have access to the tree of life (3:22), and his body would decay back into the ground from which he was created. Yet, with the words spoken in 3:15, there was hope:

“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:19-23)

After the series of curses, the Lord gives them better clothing, likely by sacrificing one of the good animals that He had created (Genesis 3:21). Their clothing became a covenant sign to remind them of their own sin but also of God’s grace. He then expels them from the garden eastward to cultivate the ground (v.23) and bars them from entering the garden again on pain of death (v.24).


1 Remember, according to the Biblical text and some Sumerian texts, people lived for several hundred years before they died. In fact, if the genealogies are added up correctly, Noah may still have been alive during the event of Babel. See here for an interesting study on the topic of the Sumerian king list as it relates to the Genesis patriarchs:

2 If it is true that Genesis was mostly written by some of the primeval men, then of course, the Enuma Elish would be a distortion of the original account. Here, however, I am assuming that the first parts of Genesis were written or at least edited by Moses in such a way as to present Biblical religion as the worldview opposite of paganism.

3 i.e. a directly opposite or contrasting position

4 This is seen in other parts of the Bible. For example, in John 1 and Colossians 1-2, we can see the Biblical authors using Gnostic words, phrases, and concepts but using them in such a way that it contradicts Gnostic doctrine. One can also see this in the Epistle to the Hebrews in which the author is attacking Philonic or Alexandrian Jewish theology. This was the early church’s way of refuting heresy: by pressing the antithesis.

5 Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis (Chicago, 1942), pp.88-89.

6 Creation According to the Scriptures, ed. P. Andrew Sandlin (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation, 2001), pp.110-111.

7 This view, which pervaded Christian theology for many centuries, starting particularly at the Enlightenment, has caused atheist neuroscientists to think that they have a slam-dunk case against the existence of the soul after the discovery that physical actions in the brain affect the actions and psychological states of the body. However, the Biblical text never states that the body and its moods are only controlled by the soul. This error came in primarily from pagan thought. Rather, the body and soul form one being, and both the brain as well as the soul controls the body and psychological states with both affecting the other.

8 Scripture overwhelmingly teaches this:

  • The ruach, or spirit, of man ascends to God at death, but the ruach of animals descends to the earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21).

  • The principle of life, that which animates the body, cannot be a self-conscious ego who worships God (Deuteronomy 10:12), blesses (Genesis 27:4), abhors (Leviticus 26:12), grieves (1 Samuel 2:33), is humbled (Leviticus 16:31), thinks (1 Corinthians 2:11), and thirsts after God (Psalm 42:2).

  • Man’s soul needs atonement (Leviticus 17:11). How does a life-principle need atonement for its sins?

  • There are passages where man’s bodily life and the life of his soul are contrasted (2 Samuel 11:11, Isaiah 42:5, 1 Peter 3:18, Matthew 26:41, Romans 7:22-23, 2 Corinthians 4:16, 3 John 2).

  • Man’s body is said to be a “tent” in which our ego or soul “dwells” (2 Corinthians 5:1-4, 2 Peter 1:13-15).

  • The disembodied souls of the saints are said to worship God after death and before the resurrection (Acts 7:59, Philippians 1:22-24, Hebrews 12:23, Revelation 6:9).

  • Paul relates the story of a man who may have been “out of the body” and saw a vision of Paradise (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

  • While Christ’s body was still in the tomb, His soul went to Hades to proclaim His victory to the wicked spirits (1 Peter 3:18-19).

9 This Hebrew idiom, common in the ancient near-east, referred to the judicial sentence and certainty of death, not its immediacy.

10 The repetition of “…and he died…and he died…and he died…” in Genesis 5 makes it clear that what was being spoken of here is not just spiritual death but physical death as well.

11 Hebrew for “enemy” or “adversary”.

12 Special revelation is information given directly from God to man in the form of clear language or signs (i.e. the Bible). It is also called propositional revelation. General revelation is the instantaneous revelation that we know simply by the fact that we are God’s creatures created in His image and living in His creation (Psalm 19:1-2). This topic will be dealt with in more detail in our discussion of Romans 1.

13 See the section in my lesson, The Doctrine of God, on “God, The Creator and Sustainer of the Universe”.

14 The belief that “perfection” necessarily entails immutability (i.e. inability to sin, in this case) is a Greek philosophical concept nowhere found in Scripture. Adam and Eve were perfect in the sense of currently being without sin, but they had the ability to sin.

15 J.A. Motyer, Look to the Rock (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), p.118.

16 These are admonishing questions, questions which were asked to rebuke and teach like a parent does. God was not ignorant of the man’s whereabouts or of what he had done.

17 Ibid., p.119.

18 Even today, we sometimes use the phrase, “bites the dust”, for someone who was killed.

19 As T.D. Alexander put it:

“Some commentators argue that the narrative speaks here only about the peculiar antagonism which human beings have toward snakes. But a much deeper meaning is intended, one which has great importance for the rest of Genesis, and indeed the whole Bible. The serpent represents those forces within creation that oppose the purposes of God. When God speaks of the ‘seed of the woman’ and the ‘seed of the serpent’, he is not simply contrasting human beings and snakes. Rather, he is contrasting two types of creature: those who are fundamentally opposed to him. Within the overall context of Genesis the ‘seed of the woman’ refers to those who are righteous, whereas the ‘seed of the serpent’ denotes those who are wicked.

In Christian theology there has been a very long tradition identifying ‘the seed of the woman’ with Jesus Christ. On account of this, Genesis 3:15 has been known as the protoevangelium – the first announcement of the gospel. Many modern theologians reject this understanding of the passage. They do so largely because they do not read Genesis as a coherent story that focuses on a unique family line which enjoys a special relationship with God. This line of ‘seed’…is the beginning of a royal dynasty through whom God will bring his judgment upon the ‘seed of the serpent’.”

-T.D. Alexander, The Servant King: The Bible’s Portrait of the Messiah (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1998), p.18.

20 Both man and woman were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). However, most pagan cultures even today still treat women as nothing more than property.

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